Anna, a high school senior, is going to have the best senior year ever — prom, making memories with best friends before going off to college and quality time with the guy she is crushing on— until her bestselling author of a father decides to ship her off to a boarding school in Paris so she can have a little culture; or so he can prove that he is something big as Anna postures. Now she will be spending her last semester before college at a school with people she doesn’t know and in a city that speaks a language she can’t speak—with her friendships and crushes put on hold at home. Will the City of Lights provide her with the romance, the friends and those life-molding experiences that she doesn’t realize she needs?
Anna and the French Kiss has that certain “je ne sais quoi”— an intangible quality that makes something distinctive or attractive (thanks Wikipedia!). Or, according to my boyfriend who wooed me in the beginning of our relationship with his advanced French skills from high school, that “somethin’-somethin’ that you just can’t explain.” Anna and the French Kiss sure has got that somethin-somethin I just can’t explain. I secretly judged this book when it was popping up around the blogosphere. I thought, “Please, even a francophile who lusts over the Eiffel Tower like I do, will not give into this cover or this title. ” I really did. It was horrible of me. But, after hearing great things from those whose opinions I respect and hold highly (I’m looking at YOU Steph Su), I decided to take a chance and at least feel comforted that it was set in Paris—a city that certainly was more than hospitable and charming to me. Anna was a book that quickly captivated my heart, despite my reservations, and I couldn’t turn back—it was like falling head-over-heels in love without realizing what was happening. It wasn’t love at first sight–it was a softening of the heart, turned sweaty palms and palpitations, turned “Oh my gosh, I think I’m in love.”
I like a good romance in a book. I’ve grown weary of some things I’ve seen in books lately– unrealistic hastiness in falling in love without knowing someone (yes, sometimes it DOES happen but I’m sick of it being in every book), unhealthy relationships, and “he’s sooo perfect” mentality that never is challenged. Yes, I do love reading about Prince Charmings but thinking that a guy is flawless and doesn’t ever act like a moron is setting yourself up for unrealistic expectations. Makes it harder to accept a guy in real life if you keep those unrealistic expectations in your head. I like my fictional boys like the rest of ya’ll but I’d like to see somebody real once in a while. Enter St. Clair. Minus the English accent that makes my knees wobbly, he’s your average guy. He’s interesting enough but certainly not Mr. Rennassaince man. He doesn’t know how to handle his feelings for Anna and he acts downright stupidly sometimes and the boy has teenage hormones. He’s normal but oh-so-swoonworthy! I love how Perkins created this romance between he and Anna. It was perfectly executed for my tastes, albeit at sometimes super drama-filled, but there was depth to their feelings for one another and I appreciated that. I liked that friendship was the cornerstone of their relationship despite their attraction to each other.
I loved being in Anna’s head. I though this was one thing Perkins really did brilliantly. She was authentically teenager to me. It wasn’t contrived and she didn’t seem like she was plucked straight from Leave It To Beaver. She was mature, had values, used common sense, a big heart but she was a high school girl– held grudges, got overly emotional sometimes and let a boy turn her into an idiot sometimes. I LOVED ANNA. She rocked. She was a good friend to St. Clair despite her feelings for him and she learned lessons the hard way. I loved seeing Paris through her eyes. Speaking of Paris, I enjoyed living vicariously through Anna and St. Clair. It reminded me of my fascination with the movie Passport to Paris (MK & Ashley Olsen anyone?) when I was a young girl. It made me giddy and resulted in me dumping out all my pictures from Paris and sigh longingly for another Parisian adventure for myself.
My final thought: Anna was a light, romantic read that will delight readers of contemporary YA. It’s full of unforgettable characters, explores intricacies in romantic, familial and frienship relations, and is filled with a good dose of drama and fun in the City of Lights. Le sigh. If you are typically a reader of adult fiction that rarely steps into the YA territory, I’d caution you that this book does tend to read like a high school girls mind—complete with OMGs and all that jazz but definitely not nearly as annoying. I wouldn’t recommend this for someone looking for a YA read like The Book Thief or other more complex YA novels. But for all you readers of YA—this is a must read! I truly can’t explain what exactly it is about Anna but I can assure you that you will find yourself smitten. It’s that je ne sais quoi.